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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

QB Orlovsky supplies Bucs a voice of experience

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 12:07 AM

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TAMPA -

When they wrote out the list of things quarterback Josh Freeman needed to rebound from his disappointing 2011 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers put a veteran backup and mentor at the top of the list.

The trick, of course, was finding the right one.

Tampa Bay wanted someone relatively young, but with recent starting experience, a willingness to embrace his new role and a work ethic that exceeded that of work-a-holic Freeman.

The Bucs went in search of that unique blend in the spring, and are convinced they found that rare commodity in former Lions, Texans and Colts quarterback Dan Orlovsky.

"He's a true pro," Schiano said of the seven-year veteran from the University of Connecticut.

"We wanted an established pro who was going to add value to the room. Quarterback is like no other position. That room really is a think tank for coaches and players.'

The Bucs probably wouldn't have him were it not for new quarterback coach, Ron Turner, who worked with Orlovsky a year ago in Indianapolis. When Turner saw what the Bucs were looking for, he knew precisely who to get.

Tampa Bay signed the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Orlovsky to a two-year $2.5 million contract just one day after adding a trio of high-profile free agents: wide receiver Vincent Jackson, left guard Carl Nicks and cornerback Eric Wright.

"We signed him pretty early in free agency, which tells you how much we wanted him,'' general manager Mark Dominik said. "We just felt from the very beginning that he would be a great fit for Josh at this point in his career.

"It's just very important for a young quarterback to not only get a coach's perspective, but also to get a player's perspective on things such as preparation and execution, and that's what Dan can do. It's what he's done.''

Orlovsky, 28, has done so willingly, which was one of the job prerequisites. Still, he is not satisfied being a backup. A starter for seven games in 2008 with Detroit and five last year with Indianapolis, he wants to start again.

"But I understand what my role is here and I kind of embrace the fact that this is where I'm at right now in my career,'' he said. "It's really a unique dynamic that they're looking for here.

"So, I kind of need to be a pick-me-up energy guy for Josh and sometimes I need to be a different set of eyes for him and a guy who can impart some knowledge on him without trying to make it sound like I'm a know it all. I can do that.''

Josh Johnson was the backup to Freeman a year ago, but with only five starts in four NFL seasons didn't have the base of knowledge and experience Orlovsky has.

Orlovsky fought through the adversity of playing for a winless team – the Lions were 0-16 in 2008 – and enjoyed the thrill of fighting for a playoff spot with the 2009 Houston Texans.

That stop in Houston, Orlovsky said, is where he really came to understand the nuances of quarterback play, learning from coach Gary Kubiak the true value of the position and how to practice and play effectively.

He was in Indianapolis just long enough last season to pick up from injured Peyton Manning his demand for excellence, which Orlovsky described as a "high, high, high standard.''

Orlovsky seemed to meet that standard for the Colts last season. Though 2-3 as a starter down the stretch, he completed 122 of 193 passes (63.2 percent) for 1,201 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions.

Orlovsky was even sharper during his Bucs debut on Friday against Miami. Taking over for Freeman at the start of the second offensive series and running the team through the start of the second half, Orlovsky completed all eight of his passes for 91 yards and a 114.1 passer rating.

"I went out and did my job,'' Orlovsky said flatly. "I think the guys on the outside made some plays, the guys up front picked up some pressures in their D-line, and I got some out there and got some live action.

"That's my role. And being the new guy around here, it's important for me to just do my job. You can do it all in practice, say it all and be smart in meetings, but until you go out and do it there in games that will be the time when guys will have trust in me.''

The Bucs seem to trust Orlovsky implicitly. They know he can fill the backup role, and also believe he can run the offense and win games, should the need arise.

"I would have confidence in him if we had to put him in a game," Schiano said. "He's very, very sure of what he's doing out there and very confident running the show. That's why I'm really glad he's here.''


rcummings@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7979 Twitter: RCummingsTrib

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